LARKINS, Clotilde “Tillie” Perez
Date of Obituary
Clotilde (Tillie) Perez Larkins
January 3, 1916 ~ January 11, 2015
Tillie was born on January 3, 1916, in the copper mining town of Chuquicamata, Chile, to Angel and Maria Perez, who had emigrated from Spain to South America in search of a better life. When Tillie was three years old, the family headed for Canada, but met a fellow Spaniard on the voyage who told them that the climate of the San Francisco Bay Area was very similar to their home in Spain. They got off the ship and settled in the company town of Cowell, near Concord, where Tillie’s father and uncles found work with the Cowell Portland Cement Company. Tillie was extremely proud to have lived in Contra Costa County for the rest of her life, except for one year when she was ten years old. The family packed up and moved to Colombia, South America, in hopes of making a fortune raising coffee. When that venture proved unsuccessful, she returned to Cowell with her parents and sister.
After attending the one room Cowell grammar school, Tillie graduated in 1934 from Mt. Diablo High School. Her first job was as the switchboard operator for the town of Cowell’s telephone system. Shortly afterwards she became secretary for the plant superintendent of the cement company. When the plant closed in 1946, she went to work for the War Assets Administration, selling surplus World War II airplanes at Buchanan Field in Concord. A short time later, she became the airport manager’s secretary, a position she held for 32 years. She enjoyed interacting with the public, talking with pilots and aircraft owners and reporting the current airport weather for a local radio station.
It was at Buchanan Field that Tillie met William (Bill) Larkins, who regularly came around the airport to take photos of airplanes. After meeting Tillie, his visits became even more frequent. They were married in July 1950 at Queen of All Saints Church in Concord and moved into the home they had watched being built in the new Fair Oaks subdivision in Pleasant Hill. This is still the family home 64 years later.
Their two daughters, Mary and Joan, remember how supportive and involved Tillie was with their activities. She was a Girl Scout Leader and ran the free Girl Scout uniform exchange out of the front room closet for many years. She taught catechism and chauffeured the girls to piano, ballet, ice skating and horseback riding lessons. Tillie provided a strong role model for her daughters, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to her family, while working in a career outside the home and volunteering in the community. Tillie was also a key supporter of Bill’s aviation history activities with her own memberships in the American Aviation History Society and the Society of Aviation History. She called each of Bill’s aviation books “her book children.”
After her retirement in 1979, Tillie enjoyed going to the Pleasant Hill YMCA for 30 years, participating in swimming, water aerobics and a monthly birthday lunch club. She was passionate about Contra Costa history. She and Bill volunteered every Tuesday for 25 years in the photo department at the Contra Costa Historical Society and were members of the Concord and Pleasant Hill Historical Societies. She never tired of looking out the front window of their home to see her beloved mountain, Mt. Diablo.
Bill and Tillie were founding members of both Christ the King and Most Precious Blood (now St. Francis of Assisi) parishes and helped compile the history of St. Francis for its 50 year anniversary in 2005.
Tillie loved her sons-in-law, Joseph and Robert, and was happy that her daughters have long and loving marriages. She delighted in her grandchildren, Tom and Anna, and spoke affectionately and proudly of them and their accomplishments. She couldn’t stop smiling when Tom told her he had proposed to Ayesha and was elated about their wedding in May 2014.
Tillie was blessed with a long and wonderful life, filled with strong faith, meaningful work, the love of family and the support of a wide circle of friends. After a family celebration on January 3rd for her 99th birthday, Tillie grew weaker and passed away on January 11, 2015. She was preceded in death by her sister, Marie Perez, and her infant grandson, Alexander Woelfel. She is survived by her loving husband of 64 years, William T. Larkins of Pleasant Hill, daughters Mary (Joseph) Woelfel of Lodi, and Joan (Robert) Mather of Portland, ME, and grandchildren Thomas (Ayesha) Woelfel and Anna Woelfel, of San Francisco.
Friends and family are invited to a memorial mass on Thursday, January 15 at 12:30 pm at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 860 Oak Grove Road, Concord, CA 94518. The family will hold a private committal service at St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery in San Pablo on January 16. Memorial donations may be made to the Contra Costa Historical Society, 724 Escobar St., Martinez, CA 94553 or to a charity of your choice.
Oak Park Hills Chapel
Walnut Creek, California
Clotilde “Tillie” Perez Larkins
BIRTH: 3 Jan 1916 - Chuquicamata, Antofagasta, Chile
DEATH: 11 Jan 2015
BURIAL: Saint Joseph Catholic Cemetery
San Pablo, Contra Costa, California